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A path-breaking study of the transformative power of war and its profound influence on 14th-century Japan


State of War represents a fundamental revision of Japanese history. By illuminating Japan through the lens of war, Thomas Conlan provides insight into how state and society functioned, as opposed to how they were portrayed in ideal. Conlan recreates the experience of war from the perspective of one warrior and then reconstructs how war was fought through statistical analysis of surviving casualty records. State of War also shows that tThe battles of the 14th century mark a watershed in Japanese history. The fiscal exigencies of waging war led to a devolution of political power to the provinces. Furthermore, the outbreak of war caused social status to become performative, based upon the ability to fight autonomously, rather than being prescriptive, or determined by edicts of investiture. TBridging the intellectual gulf between the 14th and 20th centuries, Conlan also explores how the seemingly contradictory categories of “religion” and “war” were integrally related. The 14th-century belief that the outcome of battle was determined by the gods meant that religious institutions warred both ritually and physically, and that religious attitudes frequently underpinned warrior behavior. Based on diverse sources, including documents, picture scrolls, medical and religious texts, and chronicles, State of War rehabilitates warfare as a focal point of historical inquiry and provides a fascinating new overview of premodern Japanese history.

Thomas Donald Conlan is Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University. He holds a PhD from Stanford University, where his advisor was Jeffrey Mass, and he is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He is the author of In L

“By far the most thorough and detailed analysis of the warfare of the Nanbokuchô era available in English. Conlan has restored to us a significant segment of the Japanese historical experience, and for that he deserves our thanks.”—Harold Bolitho, Journal of Japanese Studies

“Outstanding . . . Tom Conlan has written an extraordinarily detailed and thorough history of warfare in the fourteenth century from a wide variety of perspectives, including the function of the individual warrior in everyday battle, the number and character of casualties, the logistics of warfare, loyalty among warriors, and fighting as a sacred pursuit. State of War makes a powerful contention that militarization was the principal force in the molding of fourteenth-century Japan.”
—Paul Varley, Sen Soshitsu XV Professor of Japanese Cultural History, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

"This exciting book is a landmark in the study of premodern Japanese history. Informed by easy mastery of a wide range of largely untapped primary sources and thoughtful conceptualization, Professor Conlan has produced the most comprehensive study of warfare for any period of Japanese history. It is the first serious study of how warriors actually engaged in battle, and of the full range of logistic, intellectual, and religious factors that surround their lives; to his credit, the author conveys well the human side of the story. The author's attention to issues of social change and technology is particularly welcome and should inspire others to address these matters in other periods of Japanese history. Readers will also appreciate the fluid writing style."—Andrew Goble, University of Oregon